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Gifted Memories

As the 121st U.S. Open wound down and Jon Rahm waited out his first major victory, I kept hearing the broadcast team talk about how this was so special for the big Spaniard given all of the events good and bad that have taken place in his life this year.

That Rahm was able to celebrate the win with his father & son there made it special, giving him that special perspective on the win that only a lucky few ever get to have. But the broadcast team also felt compelled to talk about the tournament's last epic run at Torrey Pines -- in 2008 when Tiger Woods captured the title with a leg injury you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

As memorable as that tourney was, it's not what I remember about 2008 but it is tied to Father's Day. It just so happens mine came a few months prior to that.

I can't say that I've always celebrated my birthday with a major amount of gusto, and as I've grown up I pay less attention to that day than I did in my younger years. But 2008 was the year my parents gifted me a golf trip to North Carolina with my dad. It would be the first time I'd ever gone on a trip like that save for one day trip to Michigan with some relatives in Windsor, and it was something that still stays with me.

We loaded up the SUV and headed out, driving a little more than halfway to Charlotte before staying the night somewhere south of Morgantown, West Virginia. Apparently having a Canadian accent when you go out for dinner just off the interstate gets you noticed. That was also the first time I learned that when you order iced tea anywhere in the US, you don't get what you expect if you're a Canuck.

Back on the road the next morning, we made it to our hotel in Charlotte by early afternoon. A little exploring and a brief hunt for a golf travel bag later, we retired to the hotel to prepare for the first of five straight days of golf. It was a great run because we got to see a lot of the Queen City driving from one course to the next, as well as a few places that had nothing to do with golf.

Interesting side note: I had never been in a church that had security guards, never mind stadium seating. We had passed the Calvary Church earlier in the day and were curious what this building was that sat alone on a massive piece of land in the south of the city. Before going in side, Dad had me stand under one of the windows of the main chapel while he walked to the closest road. A brief stroll of nearly nine minutes got him to the sidewalk, and he couldn't see me waving to him. Yeah, this place wasn't what we thought of as a church.

To be honest, I couldn't name the five courses that we played since they all seemed to blur into a large jumbled slideshow in my brain by the end of the week. Cell phone cameras weren't great in '08, and we weren't really the picture-taking kind of each other back then so mementos of the trip are a little scarce. I can tell you what I had to eat at the Outback, but I can't tell you what my scores were.

The last course we played reminds me a little of Huntsville Downs up in Muskoka, but both of us were more impressed with the starter and the greenskeeper we talked with -- I don't think either of us had experienced that kind of helpful generosity while playing golf ever before. Anyone who asks me about golf in the Carolinas gets the same answer every time: the people are so friendly and willing to make your experience a memorable one.

Well, that is still true, but they weren't the primary source of the memory here. Getting a chance to take a trip like that was amazing, but going with my dad to a place like that to spend time with each other playing a game he taught me means it will forever hold a special place in my mind.

Now for sidenotes #2 & #3. A little preamble first -- just before I was set to leave on my vacation for this trip with Dad, my friend Norm Woods contacted me and wondered if I would be interested in going on a media trip to Charlotte to play a few rounds and write about it for his magazine, GolfScene. I said yes almost right away, and then nearly fell over laughing when he told me when I was going: I was to fly out the day after arriving home from my birthday trip.

So, sidenote #2 involves the drive home. I didn't know my SUV could move that fast, and I didn't know that the police near Pittsburgh were so willing to turn a blind eye to someone driving only slightly slower than they did on the highway. And #3 gave us and a border guard in Buffalo a pretty good chuckle, as I hadn't signed my passport yet. Evidently, this was something that didn't get picked when we crossed the first time, and the guard had a good laugh at my expense when he leaned in and asked Dad if he was willing to vouch for me without saying why. Given that it was around 1:30 a.m. and he could tell we'd been driving for a while, he simply handed my passport back along with a pen and asked me to sign it right there. With the laughter still echoing in my ears, we drove off for home.

When I look back at that trip now, I do wish I could remember more of the details about where we played and what those courses were like. But I can tell you about the conversations we had as we drove, how he turned to me for advice on a few things, and how nothing can take those memories away from me.

Rahm can celebrate his win, and Tiger can relive his past glory. As for me, 2008 will remain special for my own reasons. The best gifts don't come with price tags.

Thanks, Dad.

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